2019 Programming Dates Released!

Watch your mailbox, these Save the Date postcards will be mailed out to each of our members!



Notice of 2018 Annual Meeting

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the annual meeting of the members of the Kansas Cooperative Council will be held on March 21, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency, 400 W. Waterman St., Wichita, Kansas.

The official business session will begin at 10:15 a.m. with district caucus meetings and then move into the formal annual business meeting session.  This will include the presentation of financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2017, officer and management reports, and conducting all other business that may come before the membership.

Caucus meetings for all districts will be held immediately prior to the formal annual business meeting and at the same location as the business meeting.  The elections for board seats will take place at this time for Districts 1, 2 and 3.  

  • District 1 – Doug Biswell (Jackson Farmers, Inc.) will stand for election following a mid-term vacancy.

    • Caucus Chair – Clark Wenger (Ottawa Cooperative Association)

  • District 2 –Richard Harmon (Mid-State Farmers Co-op) and Bruce Williams (Rangeland Cooperatives, Inc.) are both seeing re-election.

    • Caucus chair – Deb Miller (Farmers Union Mercantile, Stockton)

  • District 3 – David Cron (Skyland Co-op, Inc.) is seeking re-election.

    • Caucus chair – Jerald Kemmerer (Pride Ag Resources)

  • District 4 – There is no director term expiring in District 4 this year.

    • Caucus chair – Gary Feist (Southern Kansas Cotton Growers)

Nominations for board seats in districts where an election will occur will also be taken from the floor.

The Kansas Cooperative Council Hall of Fame awards ceremony will be held after the KFSA reception/dinner on Tuesday, March 20.  The reception starts at 5:00 p.m. and the dinner begins at 6:30 p.m.  If you are not already registered for the KFSA reception/dinner and you would like to attend, please call Jamie at 620-802-0731.

Minutes of the last annual meeting of March 16, 2017 are available by clicking here and will also be available at the meeting.  If you have trouble accessing a copy of the minutes, please contact Jamie at 620-802-0731.


James Jirak, Chairman 

Dave Lemke, Secretary

John Strecker, Interim President/CEO

Kansas Cooperative Council


Kansas Cooperative Council Names New President/CEO

The Kansas Cooperative Council is pleased to announce that they have completed their executive search and would like to introduce the new President/CEO, Brandi Miller.

Ms. Miller has most recently been serving as the Associate Director for the IGP Institute at Kansas State University. In this role, she was responsible for executing the collective strategic vision of the Grain Science faculty and industry stakeholders. She also managed the distance learning programs for the grain industry. Miller was instrumental in the success of the GEAPS/K-State Continuing Education and Credentials program. Miller holds a Bachelor of Science in Bakery Science and Management and a Master of Science, Adult, Occupation and Continuing Education both from Kansas State University.

James Jirak, Board Chairman stated, "The rest of the Board of Directors and I are extremely pleased to announce Brandi Miller as our next President/CEO. We are confident that Brandi will bring energy, passion, and enthusiasm to the KCC while successfully implementing its strategic plan"

Ms. Miller will officially join the Kansas Cooperative Council on April 9, 2018.

Kansas Cooperative Council Seeks New President/CEO

The Kansas Cooperative Council is searching for an innovative and dynamic leader to serve as the Council’s President/CEO. Candidates must be focused and able to execute on the strategic vision for the Council. They must also be an inspirational leader and genuine in demeanor and action, with the ability to create strong working relationships. Additionally, qualified candidates must be a proven decision maker with excellent management abilities including an understanding of the financial accountability of an association. The President/CEO is also responsible for creating an outstanding work environment that fosters communication and trust. The President/CEO must be passionate about Cooperatives.

This position offers a competitive salary with outstanding employee benefits including health insurance, Co-op retirement, life insurance, a vehicle and paid vacation and sick leave.

Additional Position Requirements:

A bachelor’s degree in a related field, 5 plus years of Cooperative management or association experience or an equivalent combination of education and/or experience.
An understanding of the vision of the KCC and the key functions of the Council.
A passion for Cooperatives.
Thoughtful, analytical, strategic, and resourceful in job performance.
Excellent public speaking skills and presence.
Strong people manager with outstanding personal integrity
Ability to use and understand technology including a computer, smart phone, tablet and various software programs and apps.
A valid driver’s license.
Reside in the state of Kansas. Schedule flexibility and telecommuting is permitted so long as they key objectives including the execution of the strategic vision of the Council are accomplished. This position will likely travel up to 40% of the time.

This placement is being coordinated by ProValue, LLC on behalf of the Kansas Cooperative Council. Please send your cover letter and resume no later than January 15, 2018 to:

Sara Kepley
ProValue, LLC
PO Box 1747
Hutchinson, KS 67504
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kansas Cooperative Council Names Interim President/CEO

The Kansas Cooperative Council, today announced John Strecker, of Colby, as their Interim President/CEO.

"John has had a long and storied career working in cooperatives and his extensive experience makes him the best person to lead the KCC while we search for our next President/CEO," said James Jirak, KCC Board Chairman.

Strecker spent the past 45 years working in cooperatives.  He started his career as a book keeper with the Offerle Co-op and then worked as the Grain Merchandiser at the ten Farmers Co-op in Dighton.  Strecker went on to serve as the Generala Manager for co-ops in Menlo, Kan. and Lakin, Kan. He most recently spent 25 years as the General Manager at the Hi-Plains Co-op in Colby.

"Cooperatives are the lifeblood of many Kansas communities," said Strecker.  "I'm honored to have the opportunity to serve the cooperative community in this role."


KCC President/CEO Resigns

Leslie Kaufman has resigned her position as President/CEO of the Kansas Cooperative Council effective December 1, 2017.  She has accepted the position as Director of Government Relations and Legal Counsel at Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc.  KEC is the statewide trade association for the rural electric cooperatives in Kansas.

Leslie joined the Kansas Cooperative Council staff in January 2004 as Government Relations Director and was later named Executive Director.  Since December 2010, she has served as President/CEO.

"We appreciate the outstanding leadership Leslie has provided to the Kansas Cooperative Council. She has led a number of legislative and regulatory initiatives for the cooperative network and has built a valuable member outreach and education program," said James Jirak, Chairman of the Kansas Cooperative Council Board of Directors. "We are glad this new opportunity enables Leslie to remain part of the cooperative network."

Cooperatives Commit to Kansas Communities

For some, a co-op might mean the tallest building in town, envisioning the towering grain elevators dotting the rural Kansas landscape.  It might mean the local telephone company, the folks that keep the lights on, the local filling station, or the local credit union, bringing services to communities that otherwise may have limited options.  But to me, a co-op is all these things and more. 

When I see a co-op, no matter the type, I think of a business that provides jobs to their local community, keeps profits in their local economy, pays local taxes and supports their community. In Kansas, co-ops operate in every county, serving over 600,000 members.  Member-owned, member-controlled co-ops are established because there is a need for service, often in rural areas and working cooperatively is the best way to provide service for the benefit of all members.

Cooperatives have been a vital part of the Kansas economy for over 100 years and while they focus on serving their members locally, their impact can be felt around the world.

October is National Co-op Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of cooperatives to Kansas communities and the commitments they make to their members.  The Kansas Cooperative Council is thrilled that the cooperative spirit is alive and well in Kansas.  Help us celebrate by visiting your local co-op and thanking them for their commitment to your community.

Guest Editorial from KCC Chairman James Jirak, Valley Coop, Inc.

Congressman Marshall Announces 2017 Farm Bill Listening Tour

Congressman Roger Marshall has announced a 2017 Farm Bill Listening Tour across Kansas' Big First Congressional District.

The 2017 Farm Bill Listening Tour will be open to the public, and will focus on trade, nutrition, commodity programs, and other issues anticipated to be a part of the 2018 Farm Bill discussion.

"Agriculture is the lifeblood of the Big 1st," Congressman Marshall said. "On the 2017 Farm Bill Listening Tour, I aim to discuss the concerns - and most importantly - hear the ideas of those impacted by the bill. These ideas will be immeasurably valuable as my colleagues and I begin discussion and deliberation on the next Farm Bill. My job is to be a voice for Kansans, and I intend to begin that work with the ideas of the folks I represent."

In addition to the 10 Farm Bill Listening Tour stops below, the Congressman will also hold an August Listening Tour stop in Hugoton at Pioneer Manor on August 21st at 2 p.m..

The schedule for Congressman Marshall's 2017 Farm Bill Listening Tour is as follows:


Chase Co. Farm Bill Listening Tour Stop

Friday, Aug. 18, 11:30 a.m.

Symphony in the Flint Hills Gallery, 331 Broadway St., Cottonwood Falls


Rice Co. Farm Bill Listening Tour Stop

Friday, Aug. 18, 6 p.m.

Studio 96, 121 S. Broadway, Sterling


Gray Co. Farm Bill Listening Tour Stop

Monday, Aug. 21, 8 a.m.

Stauth Memorial Museum, 111 N Aztec St., Montezuma


Morton Co. Farm Bill Listening Tour Stop

Monday, Aug. 21, 12 p.m.

Morton County Civic Center, 400 Orchard St., Elkhart


Greeley Co. Farm Bill Listening Tour Stop

Tuesday, Aug. 22, 7:30 a.m. (MST)

Greeley Co. Extension Pavillion, 1001 Ingalls St., Tribune


Cheyenne Co. Farm Bill Listening Tour Stop

Tuesday, Aug. 22, 12 p.m.

Bird City American Legion, 109 West Bressler, Bird City


Sheridan Co. Farm Bill Listening Tour Stop

Tuesday, Aug. 22, 3 p.m.

Bowen Scout House, 11th St., Hoxie


Smith Co. Farm Bill Listening Tour Stop

Tuesday, Aug. 22, 7 p.m.

County Courthouse, basement meeting room, 218 S Grant, Smith Center


Ottawa Co. Farm Bill Listening Tour Stop

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 8 a.m.

Ottawa County Courthouse, basement meeting room, 307 N. Concord St., Minneapolis


Reno Co. Farm Bill Listening Tour Stop

Saturday, Aug. 26, 8 a.m.     

Haven Community Building, 215 S Reno St., Haven

(Release courtesy of Rep. Roger Marshall)

Kansas Cooperative Council and ProValue partner to provide training programs

Click here for more information or to register online.


Human Resource Compliance 102

This course will dig deeper into three key areas of HR compliance:  understanding the company's obligations as an employer under the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA), dealing with ill or injured employees to include discussions on Worker's Compensation, and the Family Medical Leave Act and Leave of Absence obligations/options.  The course will also touch on some hot HR topics that need to be on everyone's radar.  The target audience for this training is employees responsible for compliance and administration of the HR function for their company.

Date:  July 13, 2017

Time: 8:30am to 4:00pm

Location:  KFSA Offices, Hutchinson, KS

Cost per participant:

KCC Member Fee:  $295 (includes materials and lunch)

KCC Non-Member Fee:  $395 (includes materials and lunch)


The 5 Choices of Extraordinary Productivity (time management)

This course focuses on the key habits to successful time management.  It will also incorporate technology as part of time management.  This program will discuss and demonstrate how to maximize Microsoft Outlook and technology in general as a time management tool as well.  The target audience for this program will be CEOs, management, and supervisory employees that want to be more productive at work and life. 

Date:  October 10, 2017

Time: 8:30am to 4:00pm

Location:  KFSA Offices, Hutchinson, KS

Cost per participant:

KCC Member Fee:  $630 (includes materials and lunch)

KCC Non-Member Fee:  $750 (includes materials and lunch)


New Supervisor Toolkit:  Are you suddenly a new supervisor?

This course will cover common mistakes new supervisors make on the job, developing effective communication and listening skills, and a crash course in HR 101 geared toward what a supervisor needs to know.  The target audience for this course will be new supervisory level employees who need to get management and communication training to ensure success in their new role. 

Date:  November 9, 2017

Time: 8:30am to 4:00pm

Location:  KFSA Offices, Hutchinson, KS

Cost per participant:

KCC Member Fee:  $295 (includes materials and lunch)

KCC Non-Member Fee:  $395 (includes materials and lunch)



Fair Labor Standards Act - Understanding the major implications and the options!

Date:  August 10, 2017

Time: 11:00am to Noon

Location:  Web-Based

Cost per participant:

KCC Member Fee:  $99

KCC Non-Member Fee:  $125


Managing Employee Paperwork:  Personnel Files, Document Retention, and Destruction

Date:  September 14, 2017

Time: 11:00am to Noon

Location:  Web-Based

Cost per participant:

KCC Member Fee:  $99

KCC Non-Member Fee:  $125


HR Update for 2017 and Beyond - Did you catch all that happened in 2017?  Are you ready for 2018?

Date:  December 14, 2017

Time: 11:00am to Noon

Location:  Web-Based

Cost per participant:

KCC Member Fee:  $99

KCC Non-Member Fee:  $125

Two Named to Kansas Cooperative Hall of Fame

Larry Krehbiel and L. Earl Watkins were recently inducted into the Kansas Cooperative Hall of Fame during a special dinner ceremony in conjunction with the annual meeting activities of the Kansas Cooperative Council (KCC) and Kansas Farmers Service Association (KFSA). 

Larry Krehbiel was honored posthumously, having passed away in 2014, for his more than 60 years of service to agricultural cooperatives.  As manager, he helped create Mid-Kansas Cooperative in Moundridge during the 1960’s and saved the Iuka Cooperative Exchange (now Kanza Cooperative Association) from financial insolvency in the early 1980’s, paving the way for its success today. While working with Farmland Industries during the 1970’s he was responsible for the training and placement of an entire generation of cooperative managers.  He spent his entire life in the co-op industry – working in them, supporting them, helping them and promoting them, in U.S. and in Eastern Europe.

Earl Watkins’ contribution to the cooperative rural electric’s industry spans over 47 years.  Watkins has spent his entire career serving rural electric cooperatives in western Kansas. He served as General Counsel for Sunflower Electric Power Corporation for nearly 30 years prior to becoming President and CEO of the corporation. At every turn, he demonstrated and lived the cooperative principles. Earl was involved in nearly every local, state and national energy policy debate and was instrumental in building Holcomb Station, Sunflower’s coal-fired generation facility located in in southwest Kansas, which was ahead of its time in regard to environmental controls. Under Earl’s leadership Sunflower continued to seek opportunities and advancements that have made it a viable company with 21st Century capabilities and readiness.

The Kansas Cooperative Hall of Fame was formed in 1999 by the Kansas Cooperative Council to recognize cooperative pioneers who have been instrumental in developing and spreading the cooperative philosophy on the state, national or international levels. The inductees are nominated by cooperative members and the annual selection of new Hall of Fame members is based on recommendation by a committee of cooperative leaders from across Kansas with approval by the KCC Board of Directors.

All inductees are honored in a permanent display at the Kansas Cooperative Hall of Fame exhibit, located in the Pride of Kansas Building on the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.



Kansas Cooperative Council Re-Elects Board Officers

Topeka, Kansas – The Kansas Cooperative Council (KCC), a statewide trade association for all types of cooperative businesses operating in Kansas, recently re-elected officers to their Board of Directors at their annual reorganization meeting on March 15 in Wichita.

James Jirak, General Manager, Valley Co-op, Inc. in Winfield was re-elected as the board chairman for 2016-17. Jirak has served on the KCC board of directors since 2013. Stan Remington, General Manager at Ag Partners Cooperative, Inc. in Hiawatha will continue in his role as vice chair. Dave Lemke, Market Development Manager with CHS, Inc., Inver Grove Heights Minn., was re-elected board secretary.

“The Council’s board is a volunteer governing body. We appreciate the time all our board members donate to the association for the betterment of Kansas cooperatives,” said Leslie Kaufman, President/CEO.

The Council’s board is comprised of 14 members representing co-ops from every part of the state and a variety of industries. Other members of the board include:

Mitch Williams, KFSA, Hutchinson

Travis Ball, CoBank, Wichita

David Cron, Johnson Cooperative Grain Co., Cunningham

Clark Wenger, Ottawa Cooperative Association, Ottawa

Richard Harmon, Mid State Farmers Co-op, Rush Center

Jerald Kemmerer, Pride Ag Resources, Dodge City

Bruce Williams, Rangeland Cooperative, Phillipsburg

Gary Feist, Southern Kansas Cotton Growers, Anthony

Bruce Graham, Kansas Electric Co-ops, Inc., Topeka

Haley DeVee, Heartland Credit Union Association, Topeka

Brian Briggeman, Arthur Capper Cooperative Center/KSU, Manhattan (Advisory)



Rep. Jenkins Testifies Before House Agriculture Committee on Tax Reform

Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (KS-02) testified before the House Agriculture Committee on how tax reform can help the agriculture economy and rural way of life.

(Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiEbH9x7Czk&feature=youtu.be)

The following are Congresswoman Jenkins’ remarks as prepared for delivery:

Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Peterson, and honorable members of the House Agriculture Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you this morning to discuss the important topic of tax reform and the potential it has to help the agriculture economy and rural way of life in America. Mr. Chairman, as fellow CPAs, I know that we both understand the opportunity that tax reform can unlock in this space. I would also like to echo the remarks of my colleague on the House Ways and Means Committee, Congresswoman Noem, regarding the importance of eliminating the death tax and allowing interest deductibility for farmers and ranchers. 

I was raised on a dairy farm in Holton, Kansas, and I can speak with firsthand knowledge about the challenges and rewards that come with farming. Ours was a family operation, not at all different from any other small business. And as such, we had to balance work on the farm with the complicated bookkeeping that goes along with it. 

To make life easier for American families and businesses, the Ways and Means Committee has embarked on an effort to accomplish comprehensive tax reform for the first time since 1986. The guiding principles of tax reform will be beneficial to the ag community. We plan to lower tax rates for families and businesses, simplify a complex and burdensome code for filers, and encourage investment. We believe that these principles will unburden American taxpayers and spur economic growth.

Of particular interest to the ag community is our effort to lower tax rates for individuals, pass through businesses, and corporations. For individuals, this means moving from our current system of seven marginal tax brackets down to three, with rates of 12%, 25%, and 33%. For pass-through businesses, the rate will be 25%. And for corporations, the rate will be 20%. In addition, our plan will reduce complexity by repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax. The result here will be a significant rate cut across the board, a lower tax burden for farmers and ranchers, and simplification when filing. 

The plan also provides businesses the ability to immediately expense their investments.  For the ag community, this means that purchases related to the business, such as tractors, combines and other farm equipment will be written off in real time for tax purposes, as we move toward a cash-flow tax.  This means that we are doing away with complicated depreciation schedules and uncertainty regarding extension of temporary tax provisions. Additionally, this will make sense for family farmers, who already operate on a cash-flow basis by using the cash accounting system. We believe that the move toward immediate and full expensing would open greater opportunities for the cash method of accounting.  

I want to thank you again for allowing me to testify. I look forward to working with this committee to ensure that the interests of rural America are protected as we move forward with comprehensive tax reform.

(Release courtesy of Rep. Lynn Jenkins)

NCFC Testifies on Future of the Family Farm at Small Business Committee Hearing

NCFC President and CEO Chuck Conner testified at a House Small Business Subcommittee hearing focused on policies to ensure the continued viability of family farm operations across the country.

"The focus on the future of America's family farms is especially timely.  In today's ag economy, the difference between making small profits or big losses is controlling your costs down to the penny," Conner testified.  "Producers know that many of these costs are beyond their control.  Some are driven by the markets or by Mother Nature.  But some costs are also driven by public policy.  These policies can act either as investments that help lower costs or as regulatory hammers that raise them."

Conner focused on the impact on the family farm of three issues likely to come before Congress this year: tax reform, immigration and trade.  With each, he urged Congress to pay particular attention to how these issues with broad implications beyond agriculture will effect farms and co-ops.

Also testifying were: John Lawrence, Association Dean at the College of Agriculture at Iowa State University; Tim White, a producer from Lexington, Ky.; and Sarah Rickelman, manager of Degener-Juhl Farms in Hudson, Iowa.

(Release courtesy of NCFC)

Farm Credit Associations of Kansas and CoBank Contribute to Wildfire Disaster Relief Fund

The five Farm Credit Associations of Kansas and CoBank announced their donation of $160,000 to the Kansas Livestock Foundation to aid rebuilding efforts following the recent wildfires in Central and Western Kansas. 

The Kansas Livestock Foundation is the charitable arm of the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA), a Topeka-based grassroots organization of livestock producers.  All donated funds will be distributed to ranchers affected by the wildfire for use in recovery and rebuilding efforts following the disaster.

Denver-based CoBank, a cooperative bank serving agribusiness, rural infrastructure providers and Farm Credit Associations, will match contributions made by the Farm Credit Associations of Kansas-American AgCredit, Farm Credit of Ness City, Farm Credit of Western Kansas, Frontier Farm Credit, and High Plains Farm Credit for a total contribution of $160,000. The five farmer-owned Farm Credit Associations of Kansas provide financing and related services to rural communities and agriculture throughout Kansas, and have a long history of partnering with the KLA on important matters impacting agriculture throughout the state.

The recent fires set the record for the largest wildfire in Kansas history, breaking the record set by the 2016 Anderson Creek fire.

 "We are deeply concerned for all who were impacted by the devastating wildfires, including more than 30 American AgCredit customers who lost livestock, homes, grass, fences, equipment, and more," said Greg Reno, senior vice president, American AgCredit. "It is our honor to support the Kansas Livestock Foundation, along with our Farm Credit partners, in this important relief effort, and we are committed to working closely with our affected customers in the days and weeks ahead."

"Support of this fund on behalf of our borrower-owners ties back to the support provided last year after the Anderson Creek fire," said Kevin Swayne, President and CEO, High Plains Farm Credit and Farm Credit of Ness City. "Back-to-back natural disasters in our region are truly devastating and we are thankful to be in a position to provide assistance."

"Farm Credit and CoBank have a history of standing by our customers and the rural communities we serve in good times and in bad," said Travis Ball, regional vice president, CoBank. "The recent wildfires throughout Kansas have created a tremendous need and we are committed to doing our part to support the industry and the people of Kansas in their recovery efforts."

(Release courtesy of Farm Credit and CoBank)

Chairman Roberts Listens to Kansas Producers at Manhattan Hearing on Farm Bill

Continuing his commitment to put the concerns of farmers and ranchers first, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry today held the first hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill in Manhattan, Kan., at Kansas State University. The hearing is titled, “Hearing from the Heartland: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Kansas.”

“We start the journey to a successful and timely 2018 Farm Bill in the Heartland, because that is where it matters most…on our farms, ranches, businesses, and city and county halls across the countryside,” Roberts said. “Producers, agribusinesses, and our rural communities are the ones who sign up for programs, comply with regulations, and feel the pain first-hand of over-burdensome or under-supportive policies.

“So it is only right that we start this conversation here, with you. No one understands the impacts of Farm Bills or policies set in Washington like America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. Your experience – your story – is what we need to hear before we start writing a new Farm Bill.”

Chairman Roberts welcomed the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Ranking Member, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., back to Kansas.

The Committee also heard testimony and was welcomed by U.S. Representative Roger Marshall of Kansas’ Big First District, a member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, as well as Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, Dr. Jackie McClaskey, and President of Kansas State University and Retired U.S. Air Force General, Richard Myers.

Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow heard from two panels of witnesses representing agriculture and other stakeholders in rural communities.

The following is Chairman Roberts’ opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon.  I call this hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to order.  I’m privileged to convene this committee as chairman here in Manhattan, where I’ve spent many years learning…as a student I learned about journalism, and as a public servant, I continue to learn about how important agriculture is to our nation’s economy and national security. 

Kansas State University exemplifies higher education…especially when it comes to preparing young people for lives in agriculture, from conducting fundamental, practical research and extension to advance production, to providing critical policy analysis and development to address our challenges.  I am humbled and honored to be your chairman and to kick off the 2018 Farm Bill right here, right now, at home. 

(First panel introductions) 

Senator Stabenow, ladies and gentlemen on the panel, others here in McCain Auditorium, and those watching across the country, welcome to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry’s first hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill. 

We start the journey to a successful and timely 2018 Farm Bill in the Heartland, because that is where it matters most…on our farms, ranches, businesses, and city and county halls across the countryside.  Producers, agribusinesses, and our rural communities are the ones who sign up for programs, comply with regulations, and feel the pain first-hand of over-burdensome or under-supportive policies.

So it is only right that we start this conversation here, with you.  No one understands the impacts of Farm Bills or policies set in Washington like America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.  Your experience – your story – is what we need to hear before we start writing a new Farm Bill.

And what a success story you have to tell. America’s producers…the folks that Paul Harvey spoke about in his famed “So God Made a Farmer” speech…have overcome drought, disease, floods, tornados, embargos, and even their own government, to produce the safest, most abundant, and affordable food and fiber supply the world has ever known. 

Your fight and perseverance yield results.  According the most recent Census of Agriculture, your hard work resulted in over $394 billion worth of ag products sold.  In Kansas that value is over $18 billion. 

More specifically to the Sunflower state, Kansans planted 23.2 million acres to crops in 2016.  Livestock in Kansas includes 6.25 million cattle, 1.9 million hogs, and over 140,000 dairy cows.

Our agriculture industry throughout the value chain must grow.  Technology must advance to better service this growth.  Critical to that growth is stability and an adequate safety net. That is why we need a good Farm Bill.

This Farm Bill journey will not be like the last one.  The agriculture sector enjoyed high prices during the last debate.  Now, we face multiple years of low prices, across the board. 

I’m working to make Washington understand the differences between the economic conditions then and what you’re facing now.  You all understand it…Washington needs to as well.  

To those who say passing a Farm Bill in this environment is a daunting task, I say together we can get it done.  We must embrace the attitude of our producers…optimism and ingenuity.  A farmer doesn’t plant the seed without the faith and optimism of harvesting a good crop.

But passing a new bill won’t be easy.  That’s why your help in crafting a bill that meets the needs of producers across all regions and all crops is absolutely necessary.  Note that I said all regions and all crops.  All of ag is struggling, not just one or two commodities.  We must write a bill that works across the countryside. 

At the same time our government is spending money it doesn’t have.  Our national debt exceeds $19 trillion. 

Agriculture, and specifically the Farm Bill, has consistently answered the call to do more with less.  The last Farm Bill voluntarily cut spending.  The previous crop insurance contract with USDA cut $6 billion from the program.  I could go on and on where ag gave at the store.  Farmers and ranchers pull themselves up from their bootstraps; they understand fiscal responsibility. 

Therefore we must be judicious with the scarce resources we have.  We must ensure programs accomplish their fundamental purposes.  We must ask tough questions and reexamine programs to determine their effectiveness.  

Are our conservation programs keeping farm land in operation, or are they merely used to comply with over-burdensome regulations?  Are rural development programs helping to increase economic opportunities in farm country, or are they being used to build out infrastructure in urban areas?

Now is the time to examine the core mission of USDA programs to ensure they are operating as intended.  And if they are not, then we must refocus them.

We need bold thinking and new ideas to address today’s challenges during tough economic times. 

Let us not forget that in a few short decades, the global population will top 9 billion people.  Agriculture production will need to double in the near future to meet demand.  Accomplishing this task requires efficiency, not just on the farm and ranch, but also in the government.    

Feeding an increasing global population is not simply an agriculture challenge, it is a national security challenge.  Show me a country that cannot feed itself, and I’ll show you a nation in chaos.

This means we need to grow more and raise more with fewer resources.  That will take research, new technology, lines of credit, and proper risk management. It takes the government providing an adequate safety net and then getting out of the producer’s way.

So that is why we are here today.  To hear from the entire value chain of agriculture on what is working, what is not, and how we can improve. 

Thank you to our witnesses for taking time to provide your advice, counsel, and perspective.  Thank you to those in the audience for being here.

For those who want to provide advice and counsel on the Farm Bill, we have set up an email address on the Senate Ag Committee’s website to collect your input into the Farm Bill discussion. 

Please go to ag.senate.gov and click on the Farm Bill Hearing box on the left side of the screen.  You can send us your own input for the committee to consider as we write the next Farm Bill.  That link will be open for five business days following today’s hearing. 

(Release courtesy of U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry)